AAP Flags Declining US Student Spending on Textbooks

From Publishing Perspectives:

In a statement issued late Wednesday (September 11), the Association of American Publishers reports that average student spending on college textbooks and course materials in the United States has steadily declined in recent years.

. . . .

Student Watch reports a drop of 35 percent over the past five years and Student Monitor indicates a 29-percent decline over the same time period.

. . . .

“When it comes to acquiring course materials, students have more choice and more affordable alternatives than ever, including rental options for both print and digital materials, loose-leaf versions and creative new distribution models such as inclusive access and subscription services.

“The statistics make it clear that students are taking full advantage of the new, cost-effective options that publishers have made available, which has led to a significant decline in student spending.”

. . . .

Student Monitor’s “Lifestyle & Media” report found that student spending on course materials went from an average of US$691 for the 2014 to 2015 academic year to $492 for the 2018-2019 academic year.

In the most recent semester for which data is available, the report indicated that average spending on course materials went from $281 for spring of 2018, to $239 in spring of 2019, a decline of 15 percent.

. . . .

In the AAP report, the staff writes, “Education publishers have long acknowledged that students struggle with overall college expenses.”

Because there’s no such thing as a ‘one size fits all’ solution for college course materials, the AAP notes, education companies are addressing affordability by launching new initiatives such as “inclusive Access,” which provide students with materials on the first day of class—often at a reduced cost—because they’re purchased in volume.

“Other options like subscription models provide unlimited access to a range of textbooks, open course materials, online homework access codes and study guides all for one price,” the AAP says.

. . . .

According to the Student Monitor report, the AAP points out, the $239 in average student spending during the spring 2019 semester included:

  • $102 for new, printed textbooks
  • $59 for used, printed textbooks
  • $47 for rented, printed textbooks
  • $20 for digital textbooks for unlimited use
  • $11 for digital textbooks for limited-time use

Student Watch reports that as of 2019, about one in four students (26 percent) preferred a strictly print textbook, down 21 percent from its highest point in fall 2016, but down only 6 percent from fall 2012 when the question was first asked.

Link to the rest at Publishing Perspectives

3 thoughts on “AAP Flags Declining US Student Spending on Textbooks”

  1. I have three kids in college right now. Of the 12 classes between them, three don’t require a textbook, just a $120 access fee. We’re spending more per class now than ever.

  2. How do you calculate the number of students who buy the book, photocopy it, then return it? That was popular 15 years ago when I was in the graduate program at [redacted]. Undergrads got very adept at making copies without damaging the books, then passing around the copies.

    The grad students in my program joked that the governor got double our official tuition because of the sales tax we paid on our books.

    • Photocopies cost money.

      These days you can get a high resolution color scanner for $50-some.

      Don’t need to OCR them.

      Just save the images as a PDF or even a folder of jpgs. Comics reading software on any tablet will display them and even allow annotations.

      And the resulting replica books are easy to share around.
      A smart group taking the same classes can chip in to buy a book and scan it in an hour. Might not even need to return it. And the book doesn’t have to be new.

      Also, does anybody think there aren’t dozens of torrents of these digital replicas floating around? Textbook piracy *really* pays off.

      The news here isn’t that textbook spending is down 35%, it’s that it isn’t down 90%.

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